It's all about quality

12th January 2001 at 00:00
Jack McConnell has hard-hitting views on professional development, reports David Henderson

Jack McConnell, the hands-on Education Minister, is to take charge of moves to overhaul the teaching profession and its attitude to continuing professional development, a key aspect of the proposed post-McCrone pay and conditions deal that was this week close to final agreement.

Mr McConnell has already agreed to chair a discipline task force and will now head the national CPD strategy group, previously chaired by the deputy minister, that will create a fresh start for teachers' individual development. "I do feel strongly about this," he told The TES Scotland.

He wants to help change the culture in classrooms by placing properly planned and accredited CPD opportunities at the heart of the reforms.

Teachers, as one of the most demoralised groups in the country, must have ownership of them, Mr McConnell insists.

But The TESS understands that while CPD funding will rise substantially to around pound;24 million within three years, teachers who want to advance to chartered status will probably have to pay their own way through extra qualifications. Cash that might have subsidised training has gone to fund salaries.

Mr McConnell, as a young maths teacher in 1987, rejected the Main committee's proposals, backed by a 16 per cent pay rise. Today, his tune is rather different.

"When I was a teacher and councillor in the late eighties, I could see groups of professional council staff and private sector workers getting training of a quality and intensity teachers never had access to. If you could not skive off our so-called planned activity time to get your marking up o date, it involved usually inappropriate talks from people who knew less of what was happening in the classroom than you did," Mr McConnell admitted.

He believed that PAT failed to establish a modular approach to improving skills and knowledge and reckoned he was some six years behind developments in computing and information technology when he quit teaching in 1992. "One of the problems with PAT, apart from its poor construction and delivery, was that it was something that was felt to be imposed. Every individual teacher should see CPD as the opportunity that lets them be a success in the classroom for the whole of their teaching life."

Today (Friday) he is set to award a pound;950,000 two-year contract to establish a "modern, coherent and challenging" CPD framework.

A consortium made up of consultants Arthur Andersen and Edinburgh and Strathclyde universities will also create a training and development programme for serving headteachers and propose a common recording system for teachers as they undertake their training. A steering group will involve unions and local authorities and in turn report to the minister's own group.

Mr McConnell said it was vital to get CPD right before it was written into contracts. Teachers should be able to discuss their own individual needs with senior staff and arrange quality programmes in school and out.

"Everyone in the McCrone implementation group has been very committed to ensuring the right quality before there is any consistent application of a rule that everyone has to take part. That's what this contract is about, unlike PAT which became compulsory and then we had to decide what to do with it," he said.

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